Thursday, February 20, 2003

Beauty and the Beast : Social Expectation and Womens Roles B

20 February 2003 Beauty and the Beast : Social Expectation and Womens Roles B

The translation from Cupid and Psyche to beauty and Beast reflects the influence of Christianity that the woman's roles should be passive: the obedient child to the submissive wife that is packaged neatly on a wedding day to get shipped off with the china to her husband's house. The Piano, an Australian film, explores the historical exploitation of women in contracted marriage.

IMDB : The Piano by Jane Campion

This concept does not originate with Apuleius' story, but stems from the later remake, that Beaumont crafts to instruct young ladies on imprending marriage. According to Apuleius, when Cupid was instructed by his jealous mother, Venus, to shoot Psyche, thereby causing her downfall he himself becomes the target of love. Rejected by society, Psyche remains alone, unloved and unmarried. Although beautiful and intelligent, no one particularly wants her; a fate often bemoaned by super-achieving women. Until lately, any women wanting to pursue a PhD or professional career, often sacrificed marriage to be accepted.

Plotinus: Cupid and Psyche
beautifully illustrated version

Rejected from society, nothing assauges the loneliness or pain within, Psyche courageously accepts her fate to be given in marriage to no mortal man, but a flying serpent. Like Iphigenia, she confronts her destiny of self-sacrifice out on a rock.

Instead of being consumed, she wakes to find herself in an enchanted palace. The conflicts of the story center on the jealousy of Venus/Aphrodite of her beauty and the loyalty of Cupid. Venus, is no nasty mother-in-law, but ruthless in mythology, her alter-ego appearing in Ovid as Artemis who transforms the luckless Acteon into a stag to be devoured by his own hounds. Nor was human sacrifice a distant myth in Apuleius' time, shadowed by the brutal death of Orpheus by the frenzied Maenads in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Spurn the gods or incite their jealousy and nearly anything can happen including Arachene transformed into a spider.

Like Pandora, Psyche is incited by curiosity, spurred on by the jealousy of her sisters, to violate the "No Peeking Rule" found throughout literature. In Bluebeard, the price is the young woman's death. Rebellious against oppressive ignorance, she peeks. Cupid disappears, moralizing that love cannot remain where distrust exists. Unfair in judgement, admittedly it must be difficult to be the wife or child of a mole or spy engaged in secret services of a government. Imagine answering the constant inquiries of what your husband does, or the constant gap in personal communication. "Honey, what did you do today?" "Sorry, it's classified. You know we're not allowed to discuss departmental business with the spice." Like Eve, she is cast out of paradise and left to harvest the thorns of life.

If Apuleius left the story at this point, then Psyche could be seen as the suffering martyr; but he develops her character. Distressed, she resolves to recover her loss and in doing so, encounters direct conflict with the jealous temperament of Venus once again. And although she seems to be submissive, she aggressively pursues her goal. Beset with Heraculean tasks, she fulfills them. Instead of moralizing on marital duties and obedience, Apuleius examines her more closely. Only when we have a glimpse of the thing that we envision, we possess the courage and determination to pursue it. Perhaps this is why she is called Psyche, for it takes something beyond the systematic and rationale to pursue a dream, whether marriage or a career. Often, our intuition leads us into life-changing decisions. The quest for achievement begins at that first glimpse of self-realization, although the goal may, like Cupid, be elusive. Psyche, understanding this, endures the brainless tasks that Venus imposes. She fights back, enduring the drudgery to overcome the hardship and obstacles she faces to be legitimately acknowledged as Cupid's wife and accepted by divine society.

It's no magic. Cupid, like Romeo, runs away from the conflict. His life is easier when hiding behind his mother's skirts. His great token of affection can be seen in sending a mouse to separate the grains. In the end, he seeks the formidable authority of Juppiter, but never defends his future wife. A coward, he prefers to be won.

Shakespeare's Sonnets: Commentaries upon Sonnet 116
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
illustrationed with examples of other sonnets at the time

Psyche fights back although she fully knows that her final goal may finally elude her. Genuis by itself, wins nothing; but the application and drudgery that paves the road to success.

Consider the life of Clara Schumann. A brilliant pianist, she is most often overlooked, a subheading, the wife of a famous composer. She not only fought for her marriage, but earned substantial income as a brilliant concert pianist. She escaped the tyranny of her father to become enslaved to an enormous family and clinically mad musician, living constantly on the border of financial disaster.

Not only a genius, she broke the social rules of the day, by applying it.

Stacy Schiff, Clara: The Stressed-Out Schumanns
New York Times Book Reviews, 16 February, 2003

Clara Wieck Schumann
an enormous site that has additional links and biographical resources concerning Clara Schumann including a discography, bibliography, films and works

Rutgers University : Clara Josephine Wieck Schumann
a bio presented with links for compositions, photo album and links that is neatly arranged for easy reading and browsing. ibliogaphy and musical samples.

Beauty and the Beast: Social Expectations and Womens' Roles A

20 Feb 2003 Beauty and the Beast: Social Expectations and Womens' Roles A

The adaption of Cupid and Psyche to Beauty and Beast may reflect the expectations of society imposed on women's roles in society, particularly for marriage. beauty goes from being the domestic servant of her father's house to the self-indulgent prsioner of the Beast's palace. Perhaps the supressed feelings of rebellion incite her to take up the social martyr's station in life; worn down by the envy of her sisters and the drudgery of doing the dishes and scrubbing the toilets, she seeks escape from the repressed atmosphere of her father's house to become the spoiled princess of a palace.

The fantasies are immature. Beauty presents herself as a martyr, willingly accepting the asccusations of blame from her sisters and the burden of guilt from her father. She will present herself a willing, "living sacrifice," to redeem her father's life and to become the chattel of the Beast, reflecting much of Christian teachings regarding marriage: first the obedient child and then the submissive wife, ever yielding to the demands of the social environment.

Her father rejects any personal responsibility for the contract made with the Beast. he presents himself as the victim of excessive oppression, but in reality he wa guilty of theft and avarice. He presumes upon the Beast's generous nature, planning to ursurp the palace as his own as a pleasant habitation for his daughters. After all, he reflects. divine providence must have provided it only for him. In reality, the Beast merely oncedes to the merchant's avarice. His daughter is w4elcome to inherit the wealth of the palace, but what the merchant really wanted was no strings attached. In his confrontation with the Beast, he sidesteps admission of any guilt for taking what does not rightly belojng to him, nor is he thankful for the hospitality and sustenance that the Beast generously provided. His life is dominated by self-interest and avarice as a result of his misfortune. having lost one fortune, he wishes only to gain another, apparently by illegal squatting

"He was standing lost in thought, when of a sudden it came into his mind that some kindly power had perhaps prepared this palace of wonder for him, that it with all its riches might indeed be his. Possessed by this notion he once again made a tour of the rooms and took stock of their treasures, planning in his mind how he would divide them amongst his children, assigning this apartment to one and that to another, and whispering to himself what joy he would carry home after all from his journey. Then he went down into the garden, where—though it was the depth of winter—the birds were singing and the air breathed the scent of a thousand flowers.

“Surely,” he told himself, “my daughters will be happy here and never desire any more to go back to the city. Quick! Let me saddle my horse at once and ride home with the news!”

Virtual Fairy Tales : Beauty and the Beast Introduction by Quiller-Couch

intro and Quiller-Couch translation of the story

But Beauty does no better when confronted by the psychological harassment from her sisters. Accustomed to being the compliant child, the simpering martyr, she concedes her freedom to appease their demands. No effort is made to find an alternative solution, like a Greek hero dressed up for human sacrifice, the Beauty must go to her fate, echoing Mary Renault's, The King Must Die. The similarity though is only superficial, as she has no intention to struggle with her fate; she prefers to be immature and self-indulgent, whiling the time of eternity in an enchanted palace where everything is done for her. She is the mythical helpless princess caught in the ivory tower.

In truth, she is as self-centered and ungrateful as her father. She presumes that everything is only for her pleasure, only condescending to allow the Beast to sup with her; but refuses any other personal commitment to him. She wants the dressings of a rich marriage, but no personal involvement. Instigated by the envy of her sisters, she dreams of regaining the security of her childhood home and the affection of her father rather than remain as an empty vase decorating a table in a palace. Never once is there any personal evaluation as to the emptiness of her existence or acknowledgement of her cold rebuffs to the Beast who provideds for her every whim and need. She perceives herself as wronged and not the wrongdoer; the victim of fate and not the victimizer. Her departing comments to her father reflect her shallowness:

“I think, father,” she said, “that we had better empty these trunks again, and fill them with money. For money can always be turned to account, whereas to sell these precious stones you would have to go to some jeweller, who very likely would cheat you, and perhaps be suspicious of them. But with these pieces of gold you can buy land, houses, furniture, jewels—what you will—and no one will ask any questions.” (see above link, Quiller-Couch translation)

Beauty is no beauty, but as grasping and avaricious of her sisters. Living in a fantasy world like a child, believing that the she is the center of the universe and life owes it to her. Truly, she has denied herself, taken up her cross and now should inherit otherworldly bliss for her unswerving obedience to the father. She lives in self-delusion. Do such people exist? Surely. Young women do seek escape from repressive or abusive homelife in premature marriages, but the illusion of happiness does not last so long confronted with the drudgery of daily life, debts and diapers. They dream of the Hollywood idealized family of My Three Sons or Leave It To Beaver in a world where women take evermore active roles in business and society.

For who could ever love a beast: notes on Beauty and Beast
a comparative essay of Beaumont's version with that of Disney's and Joss Whedon's, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Marcelle Clements, NYTimes Jan 5 2002
Differing Dreams of Girl and Beast
comparative review of theatrical and film versions of Beauty and Beast including Jean Cocteau's, Disney, Philip Glass and George C. Scott.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

Beauty and the Beast: Love Transforms

6 Feb 2003 Beauty and the Beast: Love Transforms

The origins of Beauty and the Beast are traced back as far as the story of Cupid and Psyche in Apuleius' The Golden Ass, otherwise known as The Metamorphoses.

Ashlimann:Cupid and Psyche

Plotinus:Cupid and Psyche
illustrated version

Beaumont reduced Villeneuve's story, cutting out the supernatural and putting more emphasis onto marriage and morality for young English ladies. Women should sacrifice themselves to marriage.The opening sounding something like a mix between the trials of Job and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin:

“All at once the merchant lost his whole fortune, excepting a small country house at a great distance from town, and told his children with tears in his eyes, they must go there and work for their living. The two eldest answered, that they would not leave the town, for they had several lovers, who they were sure would be glad to have them, though they had no fortune; but the good ladies were mistaken, for their lovers slighted and forsook them in their poverty. “

Ashlimann: Beauty and the Beast by Jeanne-Marie lePrince de Beaumont
full text of Beaumont's version

Edmund Dulac: Illustrations for Beauty and the Beast
Sur LaLune Fairytales

However, Beauty receives many suitors, who were willing to forego a dowry, in spite of the hardship encountered by by the loss of her father's fortune, due to her amiable and industrious nature. The conflict lies in the emotional attachment to her father in opposition to a future husband. Beauty is a daddy's girl. In Cupid and Psyche, the conflict arises between Venus and Psyche for the Cupid's attentions. Venus is intensely jealous of the young woman who attracts the eyes of men and orders Cupid to entangle her in some slovenly affair to get her out of the public eye and circulation. As a poor wife, she would be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen with a parcel of rugrats tugging at her hem. Instead Cupid falls for her himself with the one command that she should never see him.

The theme appears also in Lohrengrin, where Leonora is rescued by the nameless knight who must remain unnamed. However, the jealous Ortrud contrives to cast doubt on Lohrengrin's character by insinuating that no honest or trustworthy person can remain nameless or anonymous. Leonora succumbs to the temptation and asks the forbidden question which causes the swanboat to arrive and ferry him off. In Cupid and Psyche, the sisters whisper that Psyche has been sleeping with a monstrous serpent who will devour her and insist that she must kill it some night when her husband is asleep. Psyche succumbs to the temptation. In lifting a lamp to view her sleeping partner, Cupid vanishes, returnign to his mother's home. Her faithlessness has destroyed the sanctity of their relationship. From this point, Psyche must seek Cupid and endure task after task to prove her love and win him back. Trust, once broken, is not so easily regained.

In Beauty, the conflict arises from Beauty's yearning to return to her father's house. She is given up to the Beast and in return the Beast satisfies the financial needs of her father through lavish gifts. Although, the Beast provides everything she needs, she has little value on their relationship. He appears at dinner. Her character changes radically from the responsible daughter in her father's house to the self-indulgent child in the Beast's palace. She has almost no interest in him. Unlike Psyche, she doe not endure any ordeals or tasks. She is required to do nothing. Symbolically, she delights in the caged birds of the aviary, desiring them to be near her room. Her wish is indulged. She is cruel without understanding her own cruelty. She cannot see that no bird belongs in a cage and she does not comprehend that the Beast likewise is trapped in his body. Self-centered, she scarcely acknowledges his affection or attention although surrounded by it. When he proposes, she brushes it off easily. Although she lives in his house, eats his food, wears the clothig he provides, she has no use for him. He recognizes the disdain and allows her her desire to return to her father, knowing that no marriage can ever survive if the wife desires to remain a child. She wants all the superficial comforts without the emotional commitment. She is a parasite thriving on his misery, oblivious of the pain that she causes. The Beast, though, needs acceptance, to be loved for himself and not as an idealized fantasy of a child's mind.

The tension builds through the conflict of interest between the father and the Beast. Similar to the Psyche story, the sisters contrive to detain her, hoping to separate her from the Beast. Estimating the value of the Beast, not through his appearance, but through his wealth, they envy Beauty's life. Only when she dreams that the Beast is dying, she recognizes her own ugliness. Through the self-acknowledgement of her selfishness and self-centeredness, she is able to change her attitude and accept the Beast for himself, thus causing the final transformation from beast to prince.

Only when we can accept others for themselves, and not what we would like them to be, the frog transforms into a prince and we find the beast, a gentleman. It is with the internal eye that we discover the true beauty of a person. When we no longer dwell on the packaging, love becomes binding so that we are able to endure through hardships, preserving the love that transcends our superficial needs and natures.

Thus Shakespeare sings:
“My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun”

Shakespeare's Sonnets: Commentaries upon Sonnet 130
with illustrations and examples of other sonnets giving a catalogue of charms

Eleanor Vere Boyle: Illustrations for Beauty and the Beast
Sur la Lune Fairytales

Monday, February 03, 2003

Beauty and the Beast: General background with Links

3 Feb 2003 Beauty and the Beast: General background with Links

Beauty and the Beast is one of the most popular fairytales with origins stretching back to Apuleius' story of Cupid and Psyche, found in The Golden Ass, alternately known as Metamorphoses.

Ashlimann: Cupid & Psyche

British Library
retellings of Cupid and Psyche

Latin Forum: Apuleius
bibliography and papers on apuleius

The first version of Beauty appears in 1740 written by Madame Gabrielle de Villeneuve as La belle et bete. The story, written for adults, takes more than 300 pages. The opening echoes the story of Job, "Once there was a wealthy merchant who had six sons and six daughters..." narrating a sequence of catastrophes which leave him penniless as they are forced to move from a the mansion of an aristocrat to the cottage of a poor plot farmer in the country where they can eke a living from the earth. Largely unwieldy for narration because of the contrivances of the supernatural powers in the likeness of squabbling faeries over the destinies of the merchant, his daughter, Beauty and the Beast. Where Shakespeare succeeds with meddling faeries in both Tempest and Midsummer Nights Dream, Villeneuve fails.

Sur la Lune: History of Beauty & Beast

Madame Le Prince de Beaumont was busily engaged tutoring young English ladies in social proprieties and grooming them for their future lives. Concerned about young ladies education, Beaumont published articles regarding pedagogy and educational reform. In 1748, her first book, La Triomph de la verite ou memoires de La Vilette appeared. Between 1740-1780, she published more than 49 volumes which included her version of Beauty and the Beast that appeared in magazine les enfants in 1756. This was followed by Magazine des adolescens (1760) and Magazine des pauvres (1768). At the ripe age of fifty, she left England to return to France where she married Thomas Pichon.

Ashlimann: Beauty and the Beast
Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont version

Beaumont cut out all the unnecesary machinations of faeries behind the scenes interfering in the daily lives of mortals. Moving from Catholic France to the rebellious England, the wealthy merchant's family got halved. However, she changed the focus of the story to emphasize the proper social role of women to be adequately prepared for marriage. The story became a vehicle for social moralism regarding the woman's role as malleable, loyal and persevering. Considering womens' subordinate role in society, given in marriages of convenience as chattels and having little or no civil rights, the story reflects attitudes clearly. Marriage for young ladies was the terror of confronting the beastly sex of men as they were raised in china-doll clothing to have drawing-room teas, attend balls and look beautiful. It also reflects the strict Christian mentality of women being servants to their husbands as Eve was created from the rib of Adam. Love is patient, kind, forebearing, it endures all, suffers all and is loyal to the end. Moreover, it transforms the beast into a gentle prince, a theme taken up ten thousand times over in literature, including Stravinsky's Rake's Progress based on the Hogarth engravings with Auden's verse libretto. And in withdrawing the faeries, Beaumont inserts some heavy Christian moralism.

A third version, edited by Andrew Lang, appeared in the Blue Fairy Book in 1889 which is a blend of the two, but turns the focus more onto self-determinism and spiritual growth as Beauty is caught between the conflict of childhood and adulthood, love for her father and her future spouse. Lang crafts the story so that it reads more naturally and takes greater interest in Beauty's psychological development, inverting, "Genesis 2:24 therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh."

Sur la Lune: Beauty and the Beast
Madame de Villeneuve, ed Andrew Lang, Blue Fairy Book
re-issue in Dover Books

The introduction of the story though is disturbing in both versions, as Beauty is presented as the only diligent and uncomplaining member of the family when it lands in the farmer's rut. Introduced as a assiduous laborer to keep the family togeter, she humbly concedes to be sacrificed to the Beast. upon arriving in the Beast's castle, she becomes grossly self-centered and indolent, wasting her time wandering about in rooms and really doing nothing. A truly diligent person, would ast least embark on a new pet project and go on, but Beauty only becomes self-indulgent which nearly kills the Beast who proides her with everything to satisfy her whimsy.

However examined, Beauty and the Beast presents many problems which cannot be easily answered. From the pagan matriarchal rule of Venus and the seething jealousy played out between the rivals, Venus and Psyche, the story is converted to become a vehicle of Christian moralism where women are expected to be chattels in marriage and satisfy their husbands demands. Beaumont's Beauty suffers no trials or tests to recover her Beast, but psyche must search nearly to the end of the world and overcome one trial after another to recover the loss of Cupid.

Beauty and Beast: Historical Notes
gives a chronology of the editions, major illustrators and a brief history of Madame Leprince de Beaumont

The tale of Beauty and the Beast was first collected in Gianfranceso Straparola’s Le piacevolo notti (The Nights of Straparola) 1550-53. The earliest French version is an ancient Basque tale where the father was a king and the beast a serpent. Charles Perrault popularized the fairy tale with his collection Tales of Mother Goose in 1697

The Cinderella Bibliography : Beauty and the Beast
by Russell Peck
has links for student pojects at the University of Rochester, educational materials, stories & analogues, Modern Fiction, Modern Poetry, Pantomime-Drama, Drama-Television-Film_Ads, Musical Composition-Dance and a bibliography of literary criticism

18 links for story variations, 12 links for teaching materials, substantial research and bibliography for Beauty and the Beast


Sur la Lune: illus H J Ford

Sur la Lune: illus Walter Crane